As Congress continues to debate the merits of a military strike on Syria, Representative Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined AEI and the Institute for the Study of War on Tuesday to discuss another threat to US national security: al Qaeda. Before a packed house, Rep. Cotton explained the resiliency of the al Qaeda network and compared the group to a cancer that will grow past the stage of treatment unless its causes and symptoms are addressed. The congressman also argued that the US must take a “strong-horse approach” to addressing US national security threats.
Katherine Zimmerman of AEI then discussed her recent paper describing the al Qaeda network’s core, affiliates, and associates and emphasized that a global strategy is required to defeat such an expansive network. Jessica Lewis of the Institute for the Study of War dissected her research on al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), arguing that the violence in Syria is responsible for AQI’s resilience and transformation into a military organization.
The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon provided a positive outlook, reminding the audience that America has made progress in addressing the al Qaeda threat, but likewise emphasized that counterterrorism efforts must continue. AEI’s Frederick W. Kagan concluded that the key to success is to properly understand the al Qaeda threat and its structure.
Al Qaeda continues to pose a significant threat to the US. The increasing danger has been obscured by confusion about what the current al Qaeda network actually is and how to understand its ramifications. As a result, the US has no coherent strategy for addressing this threat and is making decisions about its military forces, the capabilities of its intelligence services, and its reactions to crises in the Middle East that are profoundly endangering US national security. Understanding the enemy is imperative.
Join us on September 10 as Katherine Zimmerman of AEI’s Critical Threats Project releases a groundbreaking paper describing the state of the al Qaeda network, drawing on granular analysis not only of the core al Qaeda group but also of its affiliates and associates that have taken root worldwide.
Jessica Lewis of the Institute for the Study of War will then discuss her critical paper on the resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq, which in July 2013 — while sustaining operations in Syria — conducted as many car-bomb attacks as it did in June 2007.
Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Studies program will discuss these reports and their implications for US national security and military force structure. Representative Tom Cotton (R-AR), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will deliver a keynote address.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page and follow the live blog. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Lunch and Registration
Tom Cotton, US House of Representatives (R-AR)
Jessica Lewis, Institute for the Study of War
Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution
Katherine Zimmerman, AEI
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
Event Contact Information
For more information, please contact Heather Malacaria at [email protected], 202.862.5942.
Media Contact Information
For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.
Tom Cotton (R-AR) represents the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas. He began his first term in Congress in January 2013 and currently sits on the Financial Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. Cotton clerked for the US Court of Appeals and practiced law before joining the United States Army as an infantry officer. He spent nearly five years on active duty, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cotton’s military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Ranger Tab. After leaving active duty and before entering Congress, he worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Co.
Frederick W. Kagan is the Christopher DeMuth Chair and director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. In 2009, he served in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team, and he returned to Afghanistan in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to conduct research for Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. In July 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen awarded him the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the Department of Defense, for his volunteer service in Afghanistan. He is coauthor of the report “Defining Success in Afghanistan” (AEI and the Institute for the Study of War, 2010) and author of the series of reports “Choosing Victory” (AEI), which recommended and monitored the US military surge in Iraq. His most recent book is “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010, with Thomas Donnelly). Previously an associate professor of military history at West Point, Kagan is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and has written for Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals.
Jessica Lewis is the research director and lead analyst on al Qaeda in Iraq at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). She joined ISW in the summer of 2012 following eight years of service on active duty as an intelligence officer in the US Army. Her military career includes 34 months deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she provided intelligence support to tactical, operational, and theater commands. She has twice been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for her impact on operations. She additionally served on tours in Germany and the United States as a company commander, staff officer, and counterterrorism analyst. At ISW, Lewis specializes in data visualization, network analysis, and intelligence support to operational design.
Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and director of research for the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in US defense strategy, the use of military force, and American foreign policy. He is a visiting lecturer at Princeton University, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. O’Hanlon is a member of the External Advisory Board at the Central Intelligence Agency. He recently authored the book “Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence While Cutting the Defense Budget” (Bookings Institution Press, 2013).
Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst and the al Qaeda and associated movements team lead for AEI’s Critical Threats Project. Her work has focused on al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Gulf of Aden region and associated movements in western and northern Africa. She specializes in the Yemen-based group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab. Zimmerman has testified in front of Congress and briefed members of Congress and congressional staff, as well as members of the defense community. She has written analyses of US national security interests related to the threat from the al Qaeda network for The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and the Huffington Post, among others.